Geothermal heating and cooling is here to stay. It’s not just a fad or a gimmick, but a disruptive technology that is changing and improving everything about our business. According to HSBC Bank, by 2020 the climate economy — technologies and services that improve efficiency, produce renewable energy and generally tackle climate change — will top $2.2 trillion annually. It’s likely a low estimate. Even though geothermal has been around for quite some time, those getting in the business now have the opportunity to ride an incredible wave of profits. There is a right way to go about getting into the geothermal business. I’m about to share with you what I believe to be the roadmap for success in geothermal heating and cooling for drilling entities.
- Get trained/certified.
- Get your name out there.
- Integrate geothermal as an offering every time you drill a well, for any purpose.*
- Forge alliances with contracting and engineering firms.
- Participate regularly in continuing education.
The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) has the most widely known and accepted geothermal design courses available. Most of the time these involve a few days to a week of training to become certified in different geothermal focused disciplines such as installation, drilling, design or building analysis. IGSHPA is located at Oklahoma State University, but there are training classes around the country. Many consumers, architects and engineers go to the IGSHPA website to select their geothermal designers, drillers and contractors. Getting trained and then getting your company information on the IGSHPA Directory of Accredited Designers and Installers is an important step on the road to geothermal success.
At the last IGSHPA convention, I delivered a presentation titled, “Energy Efficiency is Over-Stated and Over-Rated: Let's Market the Tangibles of Geo.” The title is an attention grabber that reflects waning confidence/interest of some buyers toward energy efficiency; it’s like an unknown quantity to many potential buyers. Get them excited about some of the other multiple benefits of geothermal HVAC because, oftentimes, it’s not just about energy efficiency. Sometimes comfort, longevity, simplicity or just the elimination of outdoor equipment and associated noise will do it for a particular buyer!
The Geo Exchange Organization (GEO) is the geothermal industry organization that represents geothermal HVAC interests with legislators at many different levels, all the way to lobbying efforts in Washington. Geo Exchange maintains a comprehensive directory of contractors, engineers, architects, suppliers, drillers and other trades affiliated with the geothermal heating and cooling industry. This is the forum many consumers look to when selecting a geothermal driller. What’s more, GEO provides up-to-the-minute status updates in the form of newsletters and informative workshops all around the country. You need to have your name here.
There are great geothermal equipment manufacturers. It is important to forge alliances with a manufacturer/distribution network that will support your needs as seamlessly as possible. Develop a relationship with engineering and mechanical contracting firms. Make sure you really understand the multiple geothermal drilling types available, their respective capabilities and limitations, and how to apply them. I will cover more of these types of geothermal sources in future articles.
Continuing education is imperative in all industries; geothermal is no exception. The American Ground Water Trust has, perhaps, the best up-to-the-minute workshops. Called, “Geothermal Heating and Cooling Innovations: Design, Financing and Regulation” workshops, they are insightful and comprehensive. Attendance offers continuing education credits for contractors, architects and engineers. It’s quite likely there will be a workshop hosted at a location near you within the next 12 months.
The importance of these annual regional forums for your business cannot be overstated! The people that come together at these annual workshops forge alliances that any successful driller should be a part of. For example, in Baltimore, on April 2 we listened to 40-minute comprehensive presentations on a range of important topics. These included: legislative updates and the status of current Senate bills, utility funding for geothermal projects, new drilling techniques, variable frequency driven geothermal heat pumps, hybrid systems, standing column geothermal wells, and even a presentation on a multi-thousand unit neighborhood going geothermal (you should have seen the contractors lining up to talk to that guy!). Let’s just say there were many people on the edge of their seats, grateful to be shaking hands with movers and shakers currently designing geothermal systems that have to be installed by someone.
Additionally, manufacturer’s representatives were on hand with displays from ClimateMaster, Bosch ThermoTechnology, WaterFurnace, piping suppliers, specialty manufacturers, distributors and geothermal drilling companies. Suffice it to say, one of these presentations would provide any forward thinking entity with most of the relationships needed to proceed with the successful geothermal HVAC venture.
This is the roadmap. For some it may be best to attend a 1 day workshop first to see what it’s all about. Follow it and you will succeed as a leader in the greenest thing to happen to air conditioning ever; geothermal heating and cooling.
* What if every time you talked with a new or returning customer, you said, “Well since we’re gonna be drilling, why not get your geothermal wells done at the same time?” This will invariably open the door to a conversation that has the potential to vastly improve your profitability per job. When you open that door as the driller, you open the door for a half-dozen other construction trades to ride your coattails to greater profitability and an improved economy!
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For More Information and Reference on geothermal HVAC drilling, pick up a copy of Modern Geothermal HVAC Engineering and Control Applications (McGraw Hill Professional, 2013).